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Economic Populist: Capping Bush Tax Cuts fixes over half of US fiscal problem

by BruceMcF
Sat Nov 17th, 2012 at 01:45:48 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

Crossposted from Voices on the Square

Among the many things entirely lost in the mainstream US media coverage of the US "fiscal cliff" are the nature and magnitude of the country's fiscal challenge. The magnitude is why it is not a crisis, and the nature is why we would be better off "just doing nothing" ~ letting the whole Bush tax cuts expire and scrapping the zombie spending cuts ~ is better than the vast majority of "fixes" floating around in the mainstream media.

Read more... (5 comments, 629 words in story)

Arc of the Sun: Does the US Need More Ships and a Bigger Naval Budget?

by BruceMcF
Fri Nov 9th, 2012 at 11:58:39 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

Crossposted from: Voices on the Square

Way back in the third US Presidential debate (that was pre-Sandy), the challenger said:

Our Navy is older -- excuse me -- our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now down to 285. We're headed down to the -- to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. That's unacceptable to me. I want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our Navy.

So, how many ships does the Navy need?

On his website, the challenger says:

This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it. Mitt Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending--meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development--at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.

So, do we need to boost the Naval Budget?

Read more... (20 comments, 5512 words in story)

Sunday Train: Social Dividends and Carbon Taxation

by BruceMcF
Sun Nov 4th, 2012 at 07:44:06 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

One thing we will likely be hearing soon, once the election is over and attention inside the beltway returns to the regular programming of how to shrink the middle class and ensure that the resulting growing numbers of working poor are as miserable as possible, is the idea of including Carbon Taxes as a revenue raising component of a "Grand Bargain".

This has been floated already. An "Ayres Law Group" "Policy Alert" from June of 2011 noted that this had been raised by the Center for American Progress, Economic Policy Institute, and Bipartisan Policy Institute.

A lot of people reading this are likely to suspect something is fishy when a firm that takes on "environmental" cases and has clients including oil companies is alerting their client of something, but alarm bells should really start ringing when the Alert notes:

This conclusion emerges from a series of studies recently funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, an organization dedicated to creating public discourse about ways to address the country's fiscal challenges.

If this notion of including the Carbon Tax as part of a "Grand Bargain" is passed through rather than stonewalled by one of the chief propagandists for the public deficit hysteria bullshit that has become a chronic infection in our mess media, it surely deserves some serious, critical, scrutiny.

tl;dr summary: No. Even more than that, HELL no. Opponents of the climate suicide of our industrial society who fall for this will have been well and truly suckered, as the German Greens supporting neoliberal fantasies and "responsible" fiscal policy were among the enablers of the austerity policies that are ravaging European economies as I write.

Read more... (3 comments, 1985 words in story)

Economic Populist: The Radical Populist Case for Voting for Obama{+}

by BruceMcF
Fri Nov 2nd, 2012 at 12:09:41 AM EST

{+} in swing states

I don't know whether you've seen Matt Stoller's the Progressive Case Against Obama, Peter Coyote's The Progressive Case For Obama, Cassiodorus' The case against the case for Obama, or Priceman's Peter Coyote's Failed Status Quo Exercise in Condescension , but it seems making out "Progressive" cases for and against the incumbent US President is all the fashion. Not to be left out, I composed a little piece along the same lines for radical economic populism. Crossposted from Voices on the Square

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

The case against a radical Economic Populist voting for Obama is pretty straightforward:

  • The Obama administration is a neo-liberal administration, and buys into the fantasy that eliminating the deficit somehow fosters growth;
  • The "all of the above" energy strategy is a path to slightly slower climate suicide than the "all in for oil and coal" strategy
  • Support for "smart wars" instead of "dumb wars" means more Americans die as a result of overseas conflicts that we do not have to have than dismantling the American Empire and eliminating the root cause of most attacks on Americans overseas.

I am aware of an argument that a vote for Obama is a vote for a "more effective evil" because the radical reactionary alternative is such an "extreme evil" that it is going to be "less effective". I am not going to address that argument. This is more directed to the "no effective difference" argument.

There are two arguments in opposition to the above Radical Economic Populist case that I can see.

Read more... (13 comments, 1189 words in story)

Arc of the Sun: Gen Patreaus ~ We Can't Leave Afghanistan Now, They Have $T's of Minerals

by BruceMcF
Thu Sep 13th, 2012 at 10:48:11 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

crossposted from Voices on the Square

A reminder of the caliber of top flight geopolitical thinking in the current administration ... from August 2010, the person who now heads the CIA:

Read more... (12 comments, 387 words in story)

Economic Populist: The Obama Platform and the Grand Bargain

by BruceMcF
Thu Sep 6th, 2012 at 08:21:29 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

There is this thing called the "Democratic Party Platform" that people fight over, as another set of people fight over the Republican Party Platform ... but its been decades since the Party Platform was the kind of actual governing platform that we see in the party platforms in parliamentary democracies such as the UK or France or Australia.

The closest thing we are getting to a real platform is what is put on TV, with the speechwriters working in a room underneath the stage vetting the speeches. Part of their job is to ensure consistency of "the message".

And in listening to the economic policy positions as filtered through the speechwriters room ... well, one of these things is not like the others.

Read more... (5 comments, 3161 words in story)

Sunday Train: Cycle & Pedestrian Islands and Tiny Trains

by BruceMcF
Wed Aug 8th, 2012 at 01:55:24 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

crossposted from Voices on the Square

"Oh, sure, more than 1/5 of journeys to work in Eindhoven, The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands are by bike, but they are flat. It would never work here, its hilly." Given that Copenhagen has one of the highest European cycling mode shares in trips to work, winter is obviously not the obstacle that it is sometimes made out to be ~ ah, but hills. They are an insuperable obstacle.

Back in April, 2010, comparing Portland and Seattle, Jarret Walker asked, Should we plan transit for "bikeability"? This was following a project by Adam Parast comparing the cycling potential of Portland and Seattle, including potential bikeability with improved infrastructure. And the geography of Portland, with most development and activity on the flat or gently sloping floor of a valley, is substantially different from the geography of Seattle, built on "seven hills", with water obstacles tossed in for good measure.

Today's Sunday Train looks at what role public transport can serve in helping to increase cycling mode share.

Read more... (9 comments, 2532 words in story)

Economic Populist: Why Is Europe's Economy Imploding?

by BruceMcF
Tue Jul 17th, 2012 at 05:00:20 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Economic Populism

crossposted from Voices on the Square

The European Union is in a world of hurt right now, as economies go. The crises in Greece and elsewhere are becoming famous, and latest confidence surveys from Germany (pdf) suggest Germany is risking recession.

The problem? The system was built broken, based on unfounded fantasies about how real world economies actually work. Or, as John Maynard Keynes said nearly a century ago:

"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist."

front-paged by afew

Read more... (13 comments, 1841 words in story)

Sunday Train: California Senate Approves High Speed Rail Construction

by BruceMcF
Sun Jul 8th, 2012 at 07:50:28 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Crossposted from its home station at Voices on the Square

Passed!

Firedog Lake: California Legislature Passes High Speed Rail Bond Issue, Moving Project Forward ~ David Dayen
...
In a closely watched vote of the California state Senate, a bill to issue the first $5.8 billion in bonds for the construction of high speed rail lines passed 21-16. It needed all 21 votes to pass. Four Democrats voted no - including Allen Lowenthal, the Democratic candidate for Congress in CA-47, and Fran Pavley, the author of the state's historic global warming law - but ultimately, just enough Democrats voted in favor of the bonds for them to pass. Joe Simitian and Mark DeSaulnier were the other Democrats who opposed the bill.
...
This does not end the battle for high speed rail. Between the bond issue and the federal money, that covers only about 1/5 of the total funding needed for the full project, which would connect Sacramento and San Diego and all points in between by high speed rail. But if this died today, you can be certain that nothing would ever get built. The federal government was prepared to take away the $3.2 billion in stimulus dollars earmarked for this stage of the project. And faith in the future of high speed rail in California - and indeed the nation - would have been sapped.

So ... what now?

Read more... (42 comments, 3127 words in story)

Passes!!! / Sunday Train: Is State Sen. Simitian aiming to kill High Speed Rail in California?

by BruceMcF
Sun Jul 1st, 2012 at 05:56:42 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

This coming week is supposed to contain an important symbolic Independence Day: the day when the California State Senate votes whether or not to proceed with one strategic element of Energy Independent Transport for the State of California, or whether to gamble the state's future on petroleum.

It is, of course, a very sure thing as a gamble ~ on the losing side. They aren't making more, and the butane from natural gas liquids and energy inefficient production of ethanol from corn starch that has been used to juke the states on US "liquid fuel production" doesn't change the fact that we still depend on petroleum imports for over half of our petroleum consumption. We deplete more and more low production cost petroleum every year, shifting our consumption to higher cost petroleum.

And even if we had the petroleum that Pollyannas would like to wish into existence, we can't afford to burn it all at an accelerating rate, due to the CO2 emissions that will result.

State Senator Simitian does not seem to see it that way, as he appears set to vote kill the effort to allow the California High Speed Rail project to break ground next year.

Now, in an wonderful display of political pretzel logic, State Senator Simitian threatens to kill the HSR project will declaring his strong support of it: it will all be someone else's fault if he votes to refuse to break ground next year.

Read more... (9 comments, 3468 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Rock Island Line is a Mighty Fine Iowa Rapid-Rail Road

by BruceMcF
Sun May 6th, 2012 at 07:28:54 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

The Iowa Department of Transport has just completed the Chicago to Omaha Regional Passenger Rail System Planning Study, to select its preferred alignment for a detailed Environmental Impact Report.

There were five alignments in the study, based on the five historical passenger rail services between Chicago and Omaha. From north to south, these are: the Illinois Central; the Chicago & Northwestern; the Milwaukee Road; the Rock Island Line; and the Burlington Line. The study also included one combined alignment, based on where the Burlington Line and the Rock Island Line cross in Wyanet in western Illinois.

The combined alignment is the one selected, taking the Burlington alignment out of Chicago, and then taking the Rock Island line to Moline in the Quad Cities on the Illinois / Iowa border and through Iowa City and Des Moines to Omaha (probably via Council Bluffs, but that has yet to be determined).

Read more... (18 comments, 2648 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Miami/Orlando Passenger Rail Project

by BruceMcF
Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 10:55:54 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I saw this story a couple of weeks ago, but between the happenings in California and some unanswered questions I had, I haven't mentioned it yet. Florida East Coast Industries plans Miami-Orlando passenger service by 2014:

Passenger train service between Miami and Orlando could begin as early as 2014 under a plan announced Thursday by Florida East Coast Industries.

The new "All Aboard Florida" service, which would be privately owned and operated, would offer frequent, regularly scheduled daily trains geared to business travelers and tourists. The Miami-Orlando trip by rail would take three hours, about the same time it takes by car via Florida's Turnpike.

There would be four stops: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, each with connections to airports, seaports and existing rail systems such as Tri-Rail and Metrorail. The trains would run on existing FEC tracks that stretch along the east coast from Miami to Cocoa. Forty miles of new track would link Cocoa to Orlando.

Well, waddya know ~ a Passenger Train that Rick Scott can't kill. More about the Miami/Orlando Train, below the fold.

Read more... (11 comments, 3246 words in story)

Sunday Train: The Texas Wishbone Regional High Speed Rail

by BruceMcF
Sun Aug 14th, 2011 at 06:15:26 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Back in the 90's, Texas tried to get an Express HSR system off the ground (that is, a bullet train system somewhere in the 125mph to 220mph range) with the "Texas Triangle" project. It was to be an entirely privately funded project. Not surprisingly, competing against the heavily  publicly subsidized interstate highway and air travel systems, it did not get off the ground.

More recently, the Texas T-Bone was proposed, based on the Dallas to San Antonio leg of the Triangle and a route from Houston to Temple, then running north to Dallas with connections south to Austin and San Antonio.

While the Texas T-Bone seems to be the current plan of the Texas High Speed Rail and Transportation Corporation, this is more of an advocacy group than an official HSR Commission or Rail Development Commission.

Given that we are in between periods of substantial federal funding for High Speed Rail, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at the prospects for Regional HSR, in some of the existing rail corridors within the "Texas Triangle" region ... and so arrived at the Texas Wishbone.

Read more... (14 comments, 1782 words in story)

Sunday Train: Why We Fight

by BruceMcF
Sun May 29th, 2011 at 07:31:44 PM EST

NB: It is Memorial Day weekend in the US

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

"Why We Fight" is a common feature of propaganda in support of a war. Here, tonight, it is a double entendre. On tonight's Sunday Train, in honor of Memorial Day tomorrow, with two wars launched in the past decade and still ongoing (though in one, "combat operations" by US forces have finished, so any fighting and dying is of the support and training type of fighting and dying), and another recently started up, what it means when we notice that "why we fight" has a simple answer: oil.

And also, politically, why we fight for Living Energy Independence, here on the Sunday Train.

Read more... (50 comments, 1893 words in story)

Half A Century of Empire: A Progress Report

by BruceMcF
Sun Nov 21st, 2010 at 12:47:22 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun

We are sabotaging our main labor resource with mindless rote learning to pass "achievement" tests to avoid being punished for not being full of kids of upper middle class households, we are allowing our equipment resource to collapse through lack of demand and we are sabotaging our natural resource through treating nonrenewable resources as an excuse to destroy renewable resources and treating renewable resources as non-renewable resources, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In fifty years we have gone from technological leadership on all fronts to technological leadership only in some of those areas under the umbrella of War Department Industrial Policy, and from massive trade surpluses that demanded recycling via overseas investment and imports to maintain international liquidity, to massive trade deficits to allow the Chinese to export their unemployment to us.

In forty years we have gone from energy independence to importing twice as much oil as we produce.

And thirty years, we have shifted our record on land wars in Asia from 0-1 with one draw, to at best 0-2 with two draws, and at worst 0-3 with one draw.

If this damn Empire collapses soon enough, we might have a chance to start rebuilding from the catastrophe it represents, but an equally plausible outcome is falling apart into a squabbling series of small and mid-sized nation states, many harboring revanchiste dreams of re-establishing the Empire.

Read more... (100 comments, 364 words in story)

Night Train: Losing HSR Battles while Winning the Transport War

by BruceMcF
Wed Nov 17th, 2010 at 05:22:59 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Last week I raised the certainty that Kasich will return $375m of Ohio's $400m grant for laying the 110mph 3C corridor track and running 79mph trains on them ... and the likelihood that Wisconsin's Governor-elect Jobs Walkabout will return all or most of Wisconsin's $810m for the Milwaukee to Madison Emerging HSR corridor.

Thing is, even if the opponents of HSR killed two (or, see inside, three): they had to kill them all. Every HSR line that gets finished will undermine their case, and raise intra-regional and inter-regional jealousies as a force ensuring that HSR funding is provided at the Federal level and matching funds are raised at the state level.

Read more... (8 comments, 1020 words in story)

Sunday Train: Northeastern HSR Alignments & The Move to Tuesdays

by BruceMcF
Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 06:49:37 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

For the Daily Kos edition of this essay, I wrote:

This is a fairly short Sunday Train, but I thought I better get something posted, so I had somewhere to put this scheduling announcement:
  • Due to a new prep on Monday Morning this coming Fall term, the Sunday Train is temporarily moving to Tuesday Evenings until the end of year Holidays, starting next week (19 October)
... but, hell, given the haphazard scheduling of the crossposts (eg, posting on Sunday and crossposting on Wednesday evening), y'all likely won't notice the change.

The actual Sunday Train portion is about one element of the Amtrak proposal for a High Speed Rail corridor for the Northeast: the alignment. At the preliminary proposal stage, an alignment must be selected for study so that preliminary cost and patronage estimates can be performed. However, if the decision is made to go ahead, a range of alignments will be (and, indeed, must be) studied.

So tonight I take a brief look at the alignment options from the report.

Read more... (5 comments, 1088 words in story)

Sunday Train: 1:36 NYC/Boston, 1:23 NYC/DC, $117b, 30yrs

by BruceMcF
Mon Oct 4th, 2010 at 12:22:02 AM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

Sunday Train is normally written flat chat and for a yank audiences at the Daily Kos, with all that entails

As The Transport Politic reported earlier this week: Amtrak Unveils Ambitious Northeast Corridor Plan, But It Would Take 30 Years to be Realized

After months of sitting on the sidelines as states and regional agencies promoted major new high-speed rail investments, Amtrak has finally announced what it hopes to achieve over the next thirty years: A brand-new, 426-mile, two-track corridor running from Boston to Washington, bringing true [Express] high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor for the first time.

Some questions and answers, over the fold.

Read more... (7 comments, 1361 words in story)

Sunday Train: Crowding Out vs Crowding In and Transport

by BruceMcF
Tue Sep 21st, 2010 at 05:32:35 PM EST

Burning the Midnight Oil for Living Energy Independence

I was reading a Grist article critical of the most recent MIT report promoting nuclear power, and one of the arguments made got me thinking about transport:

Another critical omission in the MIT analysis is the fact that large commitments to nuclear construction tends to crowd out alternatives. The financial and managerial resources of the utility are concentrated on bringing these large complex plants online. Policies that reduce demand or promote alternatives are seen as a threat to the viability of the large nuclear project. My analysis of France and the U.S. bears this out. [emphasis in the original]

This got me thinking, because Crowding Out versus Crowding In is an important issue to face when looking for Oil-Independent Tranport in pursuit of Economic Independent for the US.

Read more... (2 comments, 2853 words in story)

O'Donnell Hits a Social Security Foul Tip

by BruceMcF
Wed Sep 1st, 2010 at 06:39:28 PM EST

Speaking of President Obama not even trying to do the right thing ...

Burning the Midnight Oil for Progressive Populism

When Lawrence O'Donnell started berating the woman who received the email from Alan Simpson with this BS (5:05), I was forced to leave the room until Rachel came on:

It is solvent until 2037.
Workers your age who are contributing to social security every day, we concurrently tell you when your time comes to collect, the money will not be there according to all projections we have today.

"According to all the projections we have today"? First, that is false. Its according to one projection we have today ~ among a range of projections that are made. And second, if Lawrence O'Donnell is going to shift from host to pundit, he is responsible when he uses figures in a misleading way.

Over the fold, how this is wrong, let me Countdown the Ways.

Read more... (3 comments, 2737 words in story)

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